Pope Benedict XVI says that forgiveness is the key to creating harmony between peoples and nations.
“Forgiveness is not a denial of wrongdoing, but a participation in the healing and transforming love of God which reconciles and restores,” Pope Benedict said April 30.
“Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward, out of the impasse that so often locks people and nations into a vicious circle of violence.”
The Pope made his comments in a message to professor Mary Ann Glendon, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which was made public on April 30. The academy is holding its April 27-May 1 full assembly in Rome to explore the legacy and lessons of Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth).
“While the global political landscape has changed significantly in the intervening half century,” Pope Benedict noted, “the vision offered by Pope John still has much to teach us as we struggle to face the new challenges for peace and justice in the post-Cold War era.”
At the time of its publication, Pope John XXIII described his encyclical as an “open letter to the world” in which he made the case for the “tranquility of order” as the foundation for global peace.
“The world will never be the dwelling place of peace,” he wrote, “till peace has found a home in the heart of each and every human person, till all preserve within themselves the order ordained by God to be preserved.”
The popular Italian Pontiff, who is often referred to as “Good Pope John,” was gravely ill at the time he wrote his encyclical, causing it to be sometimes described as his “last will and testament.” He died two months later.
Pope Benedict XVI described Pacem in Terris in his recent message to the academy as “a heartfelt appeal from a great pastor, nearing the end of his life, for the cause of peace and justice to be vigorously promoted at every level of society, nationally and internationally.”
He explained that at the heart of all the Church’s social doctrine is an “anthropology which recognizes in the human creature the image of the Creator, endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving.”
Peace and justice, he said, are the “fruits” of this right order that is “written on the human heart” and therefore “accessible to all people of good will,” regardless of their religion.
Pope Benedict asserted that because humanity is made in the image of God, therefore, its affairs should reflect the God of justice, who is “rich in mercy.”
“It is the combination of justice and forgiveness, of justice and grace, which lies at the heart of the divine response to human wrongdoing,” he said, quoting his own 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi.
A similar sentiment, he noted, was issued by Pope John Paul II in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, when he insisted that there can be “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.”
Pope Benedict took heart from the fact that since 1963 “some of the conflicts that seemed insoluble at the time have passed into history.” He finished his message by commending the work of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences to “Our Lady, Queen of Peace.”